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Mommy, I'm hungry. Breastfeeding enables babies with good intestinal bacteria

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Many hidden health benefits from breastfeeding have been discovered over the past several years. It has now been learned that "good bacteria" flows from the mother's gut to her newborn through breast milk, which helps establish good digestive health early immunity from diseases. Nursing advocates say it is yet another example why "breast is best."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Led by Professor Christophe Lacroix at the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health in Zurich, Switzerland, researchers found the same strains of Bifidobacterium breve along with other types of Clostridium bacteria in breast milk and in maternal and neonatal feces. Experts believe these "good bacteria" may play a role in establishing a nutritional balance in the baby's colon and preventing intestinal disorders.

It's not yet known how the beneficial microbes make their way from the mother's gut to her breast milk, Lacroix says. Researchers used a variety of laboratory techniques to confirm that the strains of bacteria in newborns are the same ones as in their mothers.

Hailing the discovery as "exciting," Lacroix says that future research will focus on discovering the exact mechanism of microbes transfer. Swiss researchers will also try to identify which "good" bacterial strains can be added to infant formula as probiotics to establish immunity and good digestion in newborns.

In a related development, breastfeeding has also been associated with increased intelligence in newborns. Children who were breastfed longer were found to have higher scores on intelligence or IQ tests.

Using standardized tests, researchers at Boston Children's Hospital in Massachusetts measured the IQ of some 1,300 children whose mothers were enrolled in a long-term study that looked for ways to improve maternal and child health.

The children were then tested at age 3 to determine their ability to understand language. Lead researcher Mandy Brown Belfort says aptitude was an average of 2.5 percent higher among children who received nothing but breast milk for the first year, compared to infants who were given formula.

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